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Divided by a Common LanguageFactional Conflict in Late Northern Song China$
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Ari Daniel Levine

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780824832667

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824832667.001.0001

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Unified Theories of Division

Unified Theories of Division

Factional Rhetoric in the Reform Era, 1069–1085

(p.72) Chapter Four Unified Theories of Division
Divided by a Common Language

Ari Daniel Levine

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter surveys rhetoric during the reform phase of the factional conflict, which originated in 1069 when Emperor Shenzong formed a vertical alliance with Wang Anshi and personally associated himself with the New Policies. Wang implemented his ideological vision of state activist institutions with substantial backing from junior associates, and over the vociferous objections of the opposition; he exacerbated pre-existing intellectual schisms within the political elite and sharply polarized the imperial bureaucracy between reformists and their somewhat united opposition. Wang Anshi used polemical rhetoric to persuade the amenable Shenzong to silence dissenting voices by expelling this “faction of conventionalists,” while claiming that ethically and ideologically unified superior men could not possibly be factious. The antireformists similarly maligned Wang's bureaucratic coalition as a self-serving faction, but Shenzong pressed forward with the New Policies, and most of the opposition resigned from their posts. When Wang was forced to resign in 1074, his reform coalition splintered over personal and policy conflicts, and his successor Lü Huiqing (1032–1111) used polarizing rhetoric to purge his reformist rivals from power, as did a vengeful Wang Anshi upon his return to the councilorship in 1075. Throughout the reform era, both reformist and antireformist rhetoricians identified themselves as factionless and loyal ministers, while they attempted to persuade the emperor to purge their adversaries as alleged factions of petty men. But with Shenzong's personally identifying himself with the reformist ideology and agenda, the imperial court no longer accommodated a diverse range of elite opinion.

Keywords:   faction rhetoric, factional conflict, Emperor Shenzong, Wang Anshi, Lü Huiqing

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